MariaOrtega, 15, and her son, Miguel, decorate sugar cookies on Feb. 12 at a meetingfor teenage parents participating in the Oklahoma Parents As Teachers Program.In Tahlequah, Okla. (Photo by Christina Good Voice)
Cherokee Nation and Tahlequah Schools offer new Head Start
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation and Tahlequah Public Schools are partnering to offer an Early Head Start class for children of teen parents attending Tahlequah High School. The class is set to begin this spring at THS.
The class will care for nearly 50 children between the ages of 6 weeks to 3 years. THS will provide the on-campus facility, while the tribe will provide staff and other necessities.
The facility will be located in the same building as the Tahlequah Central Academy, an alternative education program where many teen parents attend classes.
“Tahlequah Public Schools is excited to be partnering with the Cherokee Nation Head Start to expand their program to serve our students who are teen parents,” said TPS Assistant Superintendent Billie Jordan. “We have recognized the need for this program for years and have searched for ways to provide this service so that teen parents can attend school and at the same time learn hands-on parenting skills while their babies receive quality child care.”
Laura Baltazar, 19, said she’s excited the class is nearly open because it would give her peace of mind knowing her children, 3-year-old Elder and 7-month-old Eyzel, would be cared for.
“It’ll be easier because they’ll just be right there,” she said.
Bethany McDonald, who is with the Oklahoma Parents As Teachers at Central Academy, said the class would also allow parents to ease their minds about paying for daycare.
Baltazar said she pays $400 a month for daycare, but with the class she can start saving that money.
“This will help save a lot of money,” she said. “A lot of young moms, we want to come to school but we have our babies.”
McDonald, who works daily with the teen parents on parenting skills, said she sees the class as removing an obstacle to their learning.
“I see a great way for our (OPAT) program to partner with the Head Start,” she said. “I see it merging so well. We’re going to be able to have better access to our teen moms. They’re going to be right here.”
Some teen moms said the class would also help them be able to concentrate more on school if they know their babies are in good hands. Maria Ortega, 15, said she’ll be able to focus better once the Head Start opens because her 10-month-old son Miguel will down the hall.
“It’s going to be easier,” she said. “He’ll be closer to me.”
Principal Chief Chad Smith said the CN created the program to be a good partner in the community, to keep teenage parents in school to finish their educations and get the fathers of the children involved in the children’s lives.
“Through establishing this partnership with the school, we can help provide a way for the students to continue their education, which in turn will help the community,” he said.
Tribal and school officials agreed that students have a better chance of attending college or another form of post-secondary education upon graduation from high school.
Doing so will help the students better provide for their family later, Jordan said.
“There is so much research showing what an effective program it is anyway and how well those babies do in school,” she said. “If we want to talk about really overcoming poverty, Head Start is a great way.”
FRISCO, Texas – Cherokee Nation citizen Dillon Mjigal, 16, a junior at Heritage High School, began boxing at 11 years old and now has two big wins under his belt, the latest being at the Aug. 21 Houston Open Ring Nationals.
Mjigal said he trained for the tournament approximately seven hours a day for about eight months.
“There’s fighters all over the U.S. there. We had guys from Boston, Hawaii, we had a ton of people there,” he said. “They were handing out belts for winners, champions in the weight class. There was a guy in my weight class who was about 6-(feet) 5 (inches) and I worked and I put a lot of hard work into training to compete and to win this fight.”
Prior to the tournament, Mjigal said he won at the 2016 Southwest Zone Junior Olympic Qualifier in Dallas.
Mjigal said his interest for boxing was sparked because he was being bullied at school.
“I was tired of being messed with and everyone messed with me because they knew I was weak,” he said. “I got tired of it, so I joined boxing to become a better person, and what I got out of it was more than what I actually came in to get. It actually gave me a whole different mindset.”
He said boxing isn’t easy, but it was important for him to strive to have a better life and encourages others who are being bullied to try and do the same.
“I tell them not to be afraid of anything because life, it’s full of stuff that you got to take care of on your own. It’s just part of growing up,” he said. “It takes hard work to get something out of life, and it takes everybody competing with you for something, and it doesn’t mater what you’re in. It takes dedication. It takes grit. Nothing in life is really handed to you. You got to work for it.”
As for future goals, Mjigal said he would like to compete in the Olympics.
“I also hope to see a professional career,” he said. “I’m looking to be a great athlete in college. I strive for excellence to be an athlete.”
Mjigal also plays football and said he hopes to “walk on” as a football player at the University of Oklahoma.
<strong>A Student Spotlight features Cherokee Nation, United Keetoowah Band or Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians students whether they are in grades kindergarten through 12 or higher education, excelling in school or doing something extraordinary. To recommend a student, email firstname.lastname@example.org.</strong>
PRYOR, Okla. – Cherokee Nation citizen Zoe Chaffin, 17, is a senior at Pryor High School who spent Fridays of her summer vacation volunteering as a mediator in training for the Northeastern State University’s Early Settlement East Mediation Program.
Chaffin, who is training at the Mayes County Courthouse in Pryor, said volunteering as a mediator is helping with her goal of becoming an attorney.
“I want to go into civil rights law, and to be an attorney in the state of Oklahoma you have to be a mediator,” she said. “I went to the training for two days, and then like after that for the next two months I came to the courthouse on Fridays and we did cases.”
Chaffin said she has co-mediated six cases, consisting of civil, real estate, neighbors, consumer/merchant, landlord/tenant and community cases. She said she has volunteered for 26 hours and is just a few hours short of receiving her mediator certification in basic court.
She said training to become a mediator has helped her with solving conflicts.
“In the court it’s helped me a lot with solving conflict like among my friends. It’s really good for like addressing like what the problem is, how do we want to solve it, like compromising,” she said. “It’s like both sides get something instead of just like one losing, it’s everyone’s input into it.”
Chaffin said mediating now would give her an “advantage” when she eventually gets into law school. She said she’s “leaning towards” attending the University of Tulsa.
“It’s going to kind of like give me an advantage over others who probably haven’t mediated yet, and then I already have been doing it, for it would be five years before I went to law school because if I keep doing it through college, which I plan on doing,” she said.
Chaffin said she believes if more people were mediators there wouldn’t be “as much conflict.”
“I feel like if more people were mediators in the community that we wouldn’t have as much conflict,” she said. “It really has helped like knowing how to deal with that and just like to get everyone to calm down, talk about it, talk it through, workout a solution to it and then I feel like that would help relationship wise too.”
<strong>A Student Spotlight features Cherokee Nation, United Keetoowah Band or Eastern Band students whether they are in grades kindergarten through 12 or higher education, excelling in school or doing something extraordinary. To recommend a student, email email@example.com.</strong>
WASHINGTON – The Administration for Native Americans on Sept. 9 awarded the Cherokee Nation a grant of $399,996 to develop a Cherokee language curriculum for Cherokee language programs.
As part of the Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families, the ANA awarded four tribes and one college grants for their site-based educational programs to demonstrate evidence-based strategies that integrate Native language and educational services within a specific community.
According to an ANA press release, the language community coordination grants will support the tribes to integrate stand-alone language programs into a broader educational system that can offer a continuum of Native language instruction from pre-school through post-secondary education. Also, the cooperative agreement awards are expected to be renewed annually for a five-year project period.
“The Cherokee Nation is committed to preserving and growing our language, and grants like the one from the Administration for Native Americans help us continue that mission,” Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. said. “I commend our employees for seeking out funding that supports our language efforts. With this funding, the tribe can cultivate more Cherokee speakers and enhance our language programs and resources.”
The release also states the CN would have the opportunity to create a Native language Teacher Certification program.
“I’ve visited several of our Native communities and found many have components of Native language programs for students, but they often lack the time and resources to fully implement programs,” Lillian Sparks Robinson, ANA commissioner, said. “This funding will help the Cherokee Nation develop comprehensive Native language courses that will be continued through the student’s life and ensure language preservation for native speakers.”
The Native Language Community Coordination program is a five-year demonstration project for tribes to create comprehensive education systems focused on high-quality Native language instruction, career readiness and academic success. Tribes will also have the opportunity to develop Native language certification for teachers under the NLCC program.
Its goal is to provide a seamless path for Native language achievements across generations for educational and economic success. The NLCC is a new funding program provided by the Administration for Native Americans to help Native communities achieve social and economic self-sufficiency.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – On Aug. 31, Grand View School students had a special storytelling guest who got them involved with Cherokee stories. That guest was Robert Lewis, a Cherokee Nation school community specialist and Cherokee National Treasure for storytelling.
Lewis said when telling stories he gets the students involved with roles within the stories.
“When I do storytelling’s it’s a little different because I pull them (students) out. Most storytellers will tell the story, but I pull them out here and interact and give them different parts to be where they get to be the bear or the wolf or the deer or the rabbit,” he said. “When I pull them out and physically involve them with the story it’s like something happens…when I come to the area schools and do this for this program it’s a way of reassuring me that out culture still gets passed down.”
Sixth grader Elizabeth Cox acted as a grandma in one of the stories.
“I thought it was really fun, and I enjoyed playing a character,” she said.
Lewis said working with students and spreading Cherokee stories is one of the “best” jobs he’s had.
“I get to involve myself with the community, and I love children. They’re a lot of fun,” he said.
He said it’s also important to help children understand the aspects of Cherokee culture.
“The museum (Cherokee Heritage Center) started doing this and the (Cherokee) Nation started doing this because a lot of the arts programs and a lot of different programs were being cut, and as they’re getting cut the children weren’t learning various aspects of the culture,” he said. “Even Cherokee children weren’t understanding things. They were mixing different cultures together. So we said, ‘let’s start a culture program, go out to the area schools and give them a taste of what our culture’s like.’ So that’s what this is.”
Margaret Carlile, Grand View federal programs director, said this is the second year Lewis has gone to the school for storytelling.
“We are honored and privileged to have Robert Lewis, a noted Cherokee storyteller, visit with our students,” she said. “He is so engaging and the kids love to have him here. He gets them involved in stories about Cherokee culture. He weaves that in with a message about being a good student and learning and getting along with people. He has so many life lessons in all of his Cherokee tales and fables and stories. He is just such a delight to have around our students whether they are Cherokee or not.”
Carlile said the engaging stories seem to be what keeps the students interested in what Lewis has to say.
“He is one of the best teachers ever, and I know he’s not in the classroom, but we can learn from everyone. He is so marvelous at getting the students to interact with him. They enjoy him,” she said. “Before he even got here, it was announced who was coming and they (students) started clapping and cheering.”
Carlile said Lewis also has a message within his stories that are “important” for the students to hear.
“Robert’s message about doing your best and staying in school and making friends and networking and doing all you can just fits right in with our activities where we’re trying to get the students to understand how important their education is and how important to know their culture is in their growth and development,” she said.
CHEROKEE, N.C. – As corporations around the globe rethink their business models to achieve the quadruple bottom line (people, planet, profit and purpose), a group of high school students from the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians’ Qualla Boundary is moving into its fourth year of a successful social entrepreneurship venture that uses its proceeds to improve schools in Costa Rica.
Each year, the Sequoyah Fund, a nonprofit community loan fund, works with a group of 10 high school students to operate TuYa Café, a coffee business that was originally developed by 2014 program participants. Since it’s launch, TuYa Café has sold more than 600 pounds of coffee and earned more than $14,000 in revenues.
“Each year with the students is really exciting. They always try – and succeed – in surpassing last year’s sales numbers. It’s great to see their competitive spirit come out to benefit a good cause,” Hope Huskey, Sequoyah Fund associate director, said.
In addition to sales experience, students get lessons in marketing and business finance through the program.
“Our goal is to not only instill entrepreneurial values in our youth, but also to help them understand how they can use these skills to bring good to others, their local communities and other communities around the world,” Huskey said.
All net profits are directed towards service projects for Costa Rican schools. Participating students actually travel to Costa Rica each summer to provide labor for the improvements. This year’s students focused most of their efforts on Tortugeuro Elementary where they worked on beautification and technology improvement projects, as well as established a recycling program.
“Our students are always considerate of the environment, and take time to incorporate some kind of environmental aspect into their work,” says Huskey. Last year’s students installed solar panels in Cabecar School, and groups have planted trees the past two years.
TuYa Café is part of the Costa Rica Eco Study Tour, a leadership development program that educates students in the areas of cultural diversity, service, environmental sustainability, and entrepreneurship. The program is made possible through a partnership of the Cherokee Preservation Foundation, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Cooperative Extension Program and Sequoyah Fund.
The Sequoyah Fund is an independent, nonprofit Native American Community Development Financial Institution that focuses on economic and community development within the Qualla Boundary. To date, Sequoyah Fund has dispersed more than $14 million in loans, which has resulted in the creation of nearly 1,000 jobs. More information on Sequoyah Fund can be found online at <a href="http://www.sequoyahfund.org" target="_blank">www.sequoyahfund.org</a>.
For more information about the entrepreneurship program, call Heidi Cuny at 415-279-0185 or email <a href="mailto: firstname.lastname@example.org">email@example.com</a>.
TACOMA, Wash. (AP) — About 76 kids are unable to attend a tribal school that has stopped enrolling students who are not registered with a tribe.
The Puyallup Tribe of Indians operates Chief Leschi Schools for kids from about 60 tribes in preschool through high school, the News Tribune reported.
Superintendent Amy Eveskcige said the board decided on stricter enrollment standards after it was discovered that students without tribal registration left a $930,000 gap in school funding that had to be made up with other sources. That accounts for about 20 percent of the schools $4.5 million operating budget.
The federal Bureau of Indian Education kicks in about $5,000 for each registered tribe member enrolled.
The schools have to be able to pay bills and put Puyallup Tribe kids first, Eveskcige said.
"We are a tribal school that belongs to the Puyallup Tribe," she said. "All the other tribes are guests in our home."
Enrollment this year is expected to stay about the same, between 800 and 900 students, Eveskcige said.
Notices were sent in late August to families like Breanna McNeece and her 10-year-old son Roland Ware. McNeece said she and her family have been trying to register as official members of the Cherokee tribe, her heritage, for years.
Ware has been attending the school since kindergarten and was anticipating the start of his fifth grade year there.
They received their notice Aug. 23, and McNeece said she is now trying to get her son into a nearby school.
"They are punishing the students," McNeece said. "It's not fair."
McNeece said she plans to appeal the school's decision so that her son can continue to receive an education that includes Native culture.
"I wish they would try their hardest and do the best they can to try to get kids back in school," Roland Ware said.
Classes start Thursday.